Medical Devices

Cardiology-focused startup improving FFR emerges in Cleveland with $250K investment

A new Cleveland-based startup is innovating on diagnostic technology in cardiology with the hope of getting into a $1 billion (and growing) market dominated by St. Jude Medical and Volcano Corp.

Fractional flow reserve, or FFR, is a technique that measures the pressure difference across a coronary artery stenosis. It’s one of a few techniques cardiologists can use to determine the best way to treat coronary artery blockage by angioplasty or stenting, for example.

Although it was used in fewer than 10 percent of stenting cases in the U.S. before 2012, FFR is becoming more integrated into interventional cardiology. Its increasing adoption is due to momentum from clinical evidence that using it to guide treatment improves patient outcomes in a variety of clinical settings and is also cost-effective, said Dr. Matthew Pollman, CEO of Guided Interventions.

Pollman declined to go into too much detail about the specifics behind the guide wire that his new startup is developing, saying only that it takes advantage of technological advances in other industries.


“The challenge with current products is the fact that they have to significantly modify the way a normal guide wire would be constructed to facilitate the componentry and wiring that has to go through the body of the guide wire and through a connector handle back to the power and data unit,” he said. “When you compromise the construction, then you compromise the feel and the performance of the guide wire simply because you can’t make it the way it should be made.”

Additionally, because they’re so labor intensive to make, the cost of production is relatively high, he said. “(Improving) cost, performance and ease of use is where we think the opportunity is.”

With a $250,000 investment from nonprofit development organization JumpStart Inc. announced today (disclosure: JumpStart is an investor in MedCity Media), Guided Interventions will create a working prototype of the pressure-sensing coronary artery guide wire the team has been developing for nearly two years now. It will also launch and scale operations in Northeast Ohio in 2013.

Pollman is a cardiologist himself and, after stints at Guided Corp. and its eventual acquirer, Abbott Vascular, he also founded CV Ingenuity, which is developing a drug/device therapy for cardiovascular disease.

St. Jude and Volcano Corp. are the only companies in the FFR market right now, but competition may heat up over the next several years. At least one other company, called HeartFlow, is developing a new technique that’s less invasive.

[Photo from Flickr user Patrick J. Lynch]

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